Faith, Reason and Imagination
In ‘Faith, Reason and Imagination’ John Milbank outlines the impetus for Nottingham’s up and coming Theology, Philosophy and Literature program to begin in the academic calendar year 09/10. According to Allison Milbank, via email correspondence, the inchoate program has emerged from John’s visits to the States and his encounter with more holistic grad programs. Not unlike his stance in Theology and Social Theory, Milbank argues that theology, through modernity, became a discipline that was separated form secular studies with the presumption that reason and revelation should remain in autonomous fields in western academia. This has slowly undergone change as education has increasingly become eclectic with the inclusion of art and literature; i.e., liberal arts degrees. This, in Milbank’s estimation, is a well needed correction since Christianity had previously integrated philosophic reflection with biblical studies (we can affirm humanities/humanity because God has been incarnate). The specific goal of the program is therefore to elucidate the ways in whihc theology and philosophy within literature avoided a lot of the hang-ups of the Enlightenment.
As to ‘philosophical theology’, it is a wholly redundant term: all Christian doctrina is involved in discursive reflection which appeals to traditions of philosophical reflection
His point being that philosophy is an integral and inherent part of theology and a supplement or additive. More specifically, it moves beyond classic philosophical theology which presumed that philosophy was superior to theology because natural reason is prioritized over revelation – representative of German idealism. What Milbank is arguing for is no more autonomy in the modern sense; the legacy given to us from Scotus to Banez who ceded philosophy a neutral sphere by assuming that human beings are sufficient reasoning beings without grace. Milbank argues that philosophy has always been theological, at times atheological, so we are simply reasserting the voice we have withheld.
The confluence of philosophy and theology is sparked by the admittance that it is erroneous to think that we have access to divine intellect which bypasses all need for philosophy.
Instead theology, whenever it intimates the heights, must humbly return to the depths and forever in time start all over again with relatively prosaic problems posed by philosophy
Our intellect is God given and theology enhances it – makes the world cohere. We need cultural mediation to the divine/metaphysical. We recognize the divine in the flux of creation, rather than in spite of it. As a typological strategy for this integration Milbank proposes imagination as the bridge between spirit and matter: (1) imagination as that which interprets (understands and explains) reality and (2) imagination as that which modifies. In summary, Milbank’s proposal for a ‘Theology, Philosophy and Literature’ program is to reveal the importance of reintegrating philosophy and theology by showing the problems with modern philosophy derivative of the separation briefly describe above. Ultimately to realize that literature and history and both part of faith; both are imaginative: Milbanks catch-all world for faith and reason.